tiistai 15. heinäkuuta 2014

REVIEW - The Wolf Among Us | Xbox 360 | 2013

GENRE(S): Adventure
RELEASED: October 11, 2013 - July 8, 2014 (PC)
AVAILABLE ON: MAC, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
DEVELOPER(S): Telltale Games
PUBLISHER(S): Telltale Games

Founded by three former LucasArts designers in the summer of 2004, Telltale Games have slowly grown into one of today's most revered companies, best known for their unique, episodic, cinematic and point 'n' click-influenced takes on many vintage classics and modern favourites of pop culture - such as Jurassic Park and Back to the Future - as well as independent installments in classic LucasArts franchises, such as Sam & Max and Monkey Island. A few episodes into their final breakthrough in 2012's megahit The Walking Dead, Telltale Games announced they were working on an episodic adventure based on Fables, a cult comic book series created by Bill Willingham in 2002 and published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. Although the comic book series was widely unknown outside the U.S. at the time, the first episode of The Wolf Among Us was a great global success, no doubt thanks to the huge popularity of the first season of The Walking Dead. Personally, I was a bit prejudiced of taking on an identical game as The Walking Dead without even knowing what the plot was about, but my ex-girlfriend convinced me that I'll likely find it even better than Telltale's centerpiece. I'm not willing to go quite that far in my statement, but I'll tell you this: after the final episode, there was a smile on my face, and I couldn't think of any other words to say than these four... "they did it again".

What a bad ass you have

Adam Harrington : Bigby Wolf / The Woodsman
Erin Yvette : Snow White
Roger Jackson : Ichabod Crane
Gavin Hammon : Beast / Dee / Magic Mirror
Dave Fennoy : Bluebeard
Brian Sommer : Colin
Chuck Kourouklis : Toad / Bufkin
Melissa Hutchison : Beauty / Toad Junior
Kid Beyond : Grendel
Cia Court : Faith

There's some history there. Let 'em at it.
In the year 1986, a group of classic fairy tale characters have settled in New York City and built a community dubbed "Fabletown". The wealthier folk use enchantments known as glamours to disguise themselves as humans, while some less fortunate or otherwise stubborn folk who won't, are considered threats to Fabletown's safety, and sent to an establishment known among the townspeople as "The Farm". To enforce the rules and to keep Fabletown's issues in general check, interim mayor Ichabod Crane and his assistant Snow White assign the Big Bad Wolf - who now prefers to be called Bigby Wolf - as the sheriff. Due to his nasty reputation, Bigby is widely hated and feared, but he does his best to make amends for his past actions. When a serial killer targets the women of Fabletown, Bigby takes it upon himself to catch the killer and clear his own blood-stained name for good.

I love the contrast when you take any age-old story, one you've known your whole life, and turn it upside down. I'm 30 years old and I still laugh my ass off at raunchily rewritten Donald Duck comic strips. I love hidden meanings that are present in many children's shows and books. I loved the first Hoodwinked! movie, which started off as a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but how it ultimately turned the whole thing upside down, into a hilarious mystery and conspiracy story. Yet, that movie was aimed for kids - Fables is strictly for adults, and The Wolf Among Us drives that point further towards home. It's dark, it's gritty, it's brutal, with its share of adult-oriented hilarity. Colin, one of the three pigs, bunks at Bigby's place spending his days smoking and drinking, and Bigby doesn't get much of a say in it since he owes the guy for destroying his house ages back. Snow White is Bigby's hot landlord and (potential) love interest, but a total prude whose grumpiness towards Bigby's (potential) advances comes from her failed marriage to Prince Charming. Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is in turn Snow White's boss, Fabletown's asshole mayor, with Bufkin, one of the winged apes from The Wizard of Oz for a fumbling, drunken assistant. The Woodsman, Bigby's nemesis from his Little Red Riding Hood days, is a short-tempered and violent pervert, whose "heroics" in the Riding Hood story have been long misinterpreted, but Bigby lets him have his fake glory 'cause it's obvious it's all the guy has. Perhaps my favourite turn-around comes along in Episode 2, in which it is revealed that the Little Mermaid has drifted into a career as a stripper - and soon turns out one of the key players in the series.

The beauty, the wolf and the prick.
Even though I wasn't familiar with Fables at all - besides some research on the issue prior to downloading the first episode a while into its release - I fell in love with The Wolf Among Us immediately, from the first intro sequence, and gladly paid the Season Pass mainly to ensure that I would get every episode fresh out of the oven even if I didn't have any money on me at the moment. The four months between Episodes 1 and 2 - a delay which was probably caused by Telltale's shifted focus for the benefit of Season Two of The Walking Dead - were unbearable. Episode 1 was such a firestarter, a masterpiece of interactive comic book drama in itself. Most of the best characters in the whole series were introduced in Episode 1 and the cliffhanger it left us with back in the day made us feel that Telltale taking such a long break from the series basically meant they were fucking us right up the ass. Episode 2 eventually came along, and I think it was bound to be a disappointment on some level. Episode 3 once again cranked the heat up a little, Episode 4 took a few steps back, and just last week, Episode 5 came, hit the jackpot and left us craving for a second season. So, even though The Wolf Among Us has everything going for it in its very beginning, with a great murder mystery and the introduction of one of the greatest lead characters in video game history, it's not of the same consistent quality as The Walking Dead as a whole. The story is the one and only thing that matters about Telltale's games nowadays, since they've found the perfect gameplay scheme. Not only does The Wolf Among Us suffer from occasional slumps, but at times, conclusions to its arcs are not what you'd expect in terms of quality, no matter what kind of decisions you make to build up your very own experience through the eyes of the Big Bad Wolf.

Think The Walking Dead with a fine share of anthropomorphic comic book characters and mythical monsters, and you've got exactly what The Wolf Among Us looks like. I like Telltale's current, recurring interactive comic book style very much - although I might want to see them try something a little different for their Game of Thrones adaptation - but man, is it glitchy. If you've played any of Telltale's previous games, The Walking Dead included although my mind returns to as far as Tales of Monkey Island, you'll know that a/v is out of sync all the time with these games (to the point of looping or interrupted lines), the loading times are bitchy, and quicktime events halt for a brief while after each button press. At least on the Xbox 360, the game's technical flaws are so massive that the system is slow to register an Achievement, and as it ultimately turns out, it might be that the Achievements aren't registered at all! You see them on the game-specific Achievement list, but not on the My Games page. Luckily the story's mostly so enchanting that a few, yet very notable technical flaws cannot go as far as to destroy the game.

The music written by Telltale's court composer Jared Emerson-Johnson is just amazing, and I must say the intro sequence accompanied by the theme song is one of the greatest intro sequences ever made for a game. I got goosebumps from it in every single episode. The voiceover work is once again done by a group who are more or less considered Telltale's in-house talent, including many actors and actresses who were simultaneously involved with the second season of The Walking Dead. It's of the typical Telltale fare, perhaps a little inconsistent and occasionally too melodramatic, but good work by all basic means.

I'd like to make a complaint, my lap dance stunk
like a fish.
Some episodes of The Wolf Among Us are more action-oriented than others, such as Episode 5, while for example Episode 4 is almost all about diplomacy. There are even fewer point 'n' click puzzles than in The Walking Dead; most of the time you don't even have to search for key items to make progress, just talk or fight your way out of any situation. Let's start with talking things out. Now this works out exactly the same as it does in The Walking Dead. There's a different response and/or tone assigned for each face button, with "Silence" as a valid option for every exchange, if you cannot come up with a response of your liking within the time limit that changes depending on the nature and general speed of the conversation. I have seen the whole season through only once, so I can't really say how much your decisions affect the final outcome, but Episode 5 at the very least brings in a shitload of obvious variables, so I'm guessing quite a lot. (Also, unlike in the case of The Walking Dead, it's almost impossible to get all Achievements or Trophies on the first run, so my guess is that the developers wanted you to clash through the story at least twice.)

The action sequences are somewhat evolved from the first season of The Walking Dead, however they were implemented in the second season as expected. A certain, awesome action sequence in the start of Episode 5 brings in the visible time limit from the conversations, which determines how much of that scene you'll see before the transition to the next scene happens, but most of the time, it's success/failure QTE. What's a bit dorky is that even if the game prompts you to press RT, LT works just as fine and vice versa, so pretty much the only challenge is to respond in time, close to no matter what you respond WITH. The action sequences also involve two kinds of decision-making; while the murder investigation's still very much on during the first two episodes, you are given a few brief moments in the heat of battle to decide which character from two possible choices you think is the killer, and chase 'em down to bring 'em in for questioning... or just beat the shit out of 'em, no questions asked. You make the final call. Just be prepared to answer for any of your conduct later on. In other kinds of situations where two or more assailants are ganging up on you, you need to decide quickly which one you'll attack to gain the upper hand in the fight as quickly as possible.

Son, now you've gone and pissed me off.
I hinted at this earlier; The Wolf Among Us is not an easy trip for Achievement-hunters. It's not automatic like The Walking Dead, and each and every player can decide for themselves if this is a good or a bad thing. If you make all the "right" decisions, you absolutely can ace the game on the first run, but virtually it's impossible. In addition to just making progress, you need to unlock each and every chapter of the bio for each and every character in the game, and you need to make certain decisions to make that happen, so very likely you'll have to play through the story twice. Since Episode 1 was released almost a year ago, I don't think that's such a bad deal, especially since Episode 5 returns to a lot of things that happened way back. Besides, The Walking Dead left at least me hoping for a good reason to replay it, all my "pride" of getting all Achievements from that game aside. The Wolf Among Us has five of those reasons - a bio Achievement for every chapter. Besides (volume 2), I know I made a lot of bad decisions under stress; there's at least one conflict in each chapter I would've liked to solve differently.

The Wolf Among Us is another piece of fabulous writing by Telltale Games, but it lacks a few things in total, such as puzzles and a little bit of general consistency; the story stumbles a bit along the way, however just to reach another climax a half an hour later. It also suffers a big deal from Telltale's typical technical flaws. What it definitely succeeds in, is increasing my expectations for any future endeavors after they're done with their "main product", The Walking Dead. Tales from the Borderlands might not turn out my thing - I'm not a huge fan of the Borderlands franchise - but if they manage to weed out those damn technical issues from their upcoming Game of Thrones adaptation, and learn from this experience in general, I think we're in for another masterpiece. Relatively speaking and as a whole, The Wolf Among Us ain't THAT far from one. But it's no Walking Dead.

+ Bigby and a choice cavalcade of NPC's
+ Great music
+ Some semblance of replay value, rare to Telltale's most recent games
+ The huge importance of decision-making
+ The story is great with all its dark, delicious contrasts...

- ...However, it does not come without minor and major slumps
- Various technical issues
- Virtually no puzzles

< 8.5 >

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti